Snøhetta’s King Abdelaziz Center for World Culture nears completion

New photographs reveal the pebble-shaped forms of Snøhetta‘s cultural centre in Saudi Arabia, which is nearing completion ahead of its slated opening date in 2017.

Snøhetta won a competition for the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in the city of Dhahran in 2007, and began construction the following year.

Designed for the Saudi oil company Aramco, the cultural centre will contain 45,000 square metres of cultural facilities – including an auditorium, cinema, library, exhibition hall, museum and archive.

“The museum and archive facilities connect the vibrant cultural life of the centre to the past and to the very roots of the society from which this centre is conceived,” said the studio, which opens its will become a “cultural landmark on a regional, national and global horizon”.

The complex comprises a collection of bulbous forms covered in lengths of metal piping. The tubing follows the contours of the building, surrounding windows and doorways, but bands of the facade are left uncovered to reveal the metal structure beneath.

Inside, the 930-seat auditorium within will be used to host opera and classical music concerts as well as speeches. There will also be a smaller auditorium for a cinema, as well as an open-access library stocked with 300,000 books and an exhibition hall to cater for travelling exhibitions, conferences and events.

Earlier this year, Snøhetta hit back at critics of the firm’s decision to carry out work in Saudi Arabia. Co-founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen told Dezeen that architects have a responsibility to countries with authoritarian regimes, to push them to move forward politically.

Snøhetta is currently working on a variety of projects worldwide, ranging from a charred-timber tree house for a hotel in Swedish Lapland to a chequerboard tower for a bank in Lebanon.

The studio received its first major commission in 1989 – for the Alexandria Library in Egypt – and has gone on to win a string of high-profile projects.

Its Norwegian National Opera and Ballet opened in 2008, and won both World Architecture Festival and Mies van der Rohe awards, while earlier this year the firm completed an extension to the SFMOMA gallery

Photography is courtesy of Snøhetta.

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